Much to write about nothing

Last night the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators in the first meaningless game they have played in a long time. I didn’t watch a single minute. I was taking full advantage of the luxury of not having to worry about how the Rangers did and just simply enjoyed that absolutely sensational hockey being played around the league.

I was mainly focused on the Bruins-Panthers matchup, Detroit-Montreal, and of course, LA versus Calgary. With so much congestion in the bottom part of the conferences, eliminated teams playing spoiler and seed shuffling taking place all the way to the last day of the season, it’s a good time to be a hockey fan.

Most years, we Rangers fans drink heavily, pull our hair out and stress to an extremely unhealthy degree waiting for the Blueshirts to clinch a spot. Most years it works out, some years it doesn’t (I’m looking at you Olli Jokinen), but this year is different. Far and away the biggest source of stress leading up to the start of the postseason is general health. Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello have been getting some much needed rest, and Hank is getting his reps in. I’m sure fans of the Pens and Bruins would have loved to see us take out Ottawa last night, but it makes me endlessly happy to say, “not our problem”.

It’s an odd thing to have events of consequence going on all around us and having no real vested interest in it. You can just enjoy it and see how it unfolds. Sure, the fan in me loved seeing the Kings eliminated last night, and would absolutely be thrilled watching the Bruins or the Penguins juuuust miss the postseason. With the current state of the league, “be careful what you wish for” is all the more pronounced, so I honestly am not pulling for the Rangers to have any specific matchup in the first round. I can just watch it all objectively.

An 82-game NHL season is an incredible grind. Especially with this group and their maddeningly slow starts, vesting in a chance to be the last team standing in June is most certainly an emotional commitment. Even around here, there are times when the team is struggling, that we in turn struggle to find content worth writing about. So I find myself in a strange spot; knowing that there is plenty of meaningful hockey ahead, yet not right this moment. I’ll have a goaltending preview up for whomever the Rangers draw in the first round, but today, I am perfectly satisfied to write about nothing.

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  • Wrapping up a division title before the end of the season? It’s a position that is pretty unfamiliar.

    A few thoughts:

    Be careful what you wish for is apt in the playoffs. I honestly would like the Rangers chances vs. any potential first round opponent.

    Potential match-up I’m dreading: Tampa Bay. That team is going to go on a run. I can easily see a NY-TB conference finals. They scare me.

    If I HAD to choose a desired opponent, it would be Pitt. That team is decimated by injuries, and just seems to be hanging on by a thread.

    It’s quite a season that ends without Boston (most likely) and LA in the playoffs. If Boston does miss the playoffs, a big shakeup is coming. I’m not too broken up about it.

    Moreso than Boston, LA missing the playoffs blows me away. That team is built for the postseason, them not making it opens up that whole conference (especially with a Kane-less Chicago). It’s going to be interesting to see who comes out on top. I can’t see Calgary or Vancouver making a long run, but I wouldn’t be suprised to see any other team (even Winnipeg) take the conference.

    Now with that said, the Rangers have a prime opportunity this year with no powerhouse teams threating to steamroll all others. If there ever was a year where circumstances line up, this is it. There are no guarantees, but it’s there for the Rangers if they can fulfill the promise of this season. Step 1: Game 1 on Thursday.

    • You make a good point about none of the recent powerhouses (LA / BOS / CHI) either being in the playoffs or at least not being too threatening this season.

      However, there are some new arrivals who do scare me. TB is a top-notch club right now, and could beat the Rangers at their own game, Teams likes Montreal and Washington could steal a series with goaltending. The Isles obviously could return to their regular season 1st half form and smoke through the Rangers.

      But, all things considered, I think you’re right. This is the year where everything has aligned as good as it can to pave the way to a Rangers success story. Now, if they’ll just take the opportunity.

      On an aside, I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts are regarding the best possession club (L) not making the playoffs, and the worst possession team (Calgary) clinching in their place.

      Before I start this sh!tstorm, let me just say that I am a big fan of advanced metrics and possession stats –though I sometimes feel they’re unfairly applied on an individual level to players who aren’t really supposed to be possession stalwarts–, and I’m not trying to discredit the importance of possession by pointing this out, But, it certainly is an counter-intuitive situation where a team like LA (which I believe had 1500 more SATs than Calgary) doesn’t clinch, and the Flames who had a negative SAT of around -800 somehow found away to make the playoffs.

      • My thought is that possession (Corsi, Fenwick, or what-have-you) explains about 30% of the variation between teams. The other 70% remains analytically opaque. Some of it is goaltending. Some of it must be shot quality, and maybe the data to analyze that will become available. Some of it may be purely random and eternally unknowable.

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